Julie Maynard-Johnson, one of two finalists for the Shakopee school board vacancy, unexpectedly withdrew her application last week only days before her interview, citing concerns that opponents would try to block her appointment and stage a protest against her.
"I want to avoid both actions, as it is in the best interest of the school district to move forward in a positive direction without added controversy," Maynard-Johnson wrote in an April 18 e-mail to board members. "It's unfortunate that my desire to be on the board has elicited such vitriol, as it was my intention to serve for the betterment of the district."
Maynard-Johnson's withdrawal leaves longtime educator Judith Tomczik as the sole finalist for the job. She will be interviewed for the position Monday night by board members, who are expected to vote on her appointment.
Maynard-Johnson, a content writer for a Shakopee-based software company, helped raise support for the district's referendum in 2015 to double the high school and has served on the Shakopee Educational Endowment Foundation's board of directors.
Her selection as a finalist drew a backlash from some of the district's most vocal critics, who said the board would be guilty of cronyism should she be appointed. They consider her a former supporter of Rod Thompson, who resigned as district superintendent last summer amid accusations of embezzling public funds.
But Maynard-Johnson says that she and her husband supported the district rather than Thompson.
"I have been disparaged for no other reason than being involved with the district for the past few years and trying to do right for all students," she wrote in her e-mail.
If the board approves Tomczik for the job, there's a 30-day waiting period allowing the public time to take up a petition opposing their decision. She would serve out former board member Mary Romansky's term, which runs through Dec. 31.
Tomczik, a retired Shakopee schoolteacher, continues to teach classes at elementary and middle schools. She has been an active member of the Shakopee Alumni Association and has worked on every Shakopee school referendum since 1972.
Board rejects bids, delaying school projects
The Prior Lake-Savage school board this month rejected construction bids for expansion projects at four elementary schools, delaying efforts to address overcrowding for at least several months.
Board members said that prices were too high for renovation projects at Five Hawks, Glendale, Jeffers Pond and Redtail Ridge schools, which district officials attributed to late-season bids and steep competition for contractors.
Bidding opened April 3 with construction expected to begin in June, but board Chairman Richard Wolf said bids came back 50 percent over budget.
"We truly believe it is a timing issue," Assistant Superintendent Jeff Holmberg said at the April 9 board meeting. "We knew there was a risk coming out this late."
The expansion plans are part of a $109.3 million bond referendum approved by voters in November to fund a new elementary school, alternative learning center, two-story high school addition and other school improvements.
As a result of the board's vote, classroom additions at Five Hawks and Glendale will go back out for bids, while the other projects will be rolled into larger expansions starting next spring.
Board Member Mary Frantz questioned why staffers hadn't anticipated the problem, and urged the board to prepare contingency plans should bids come back too high again.
"I think that we probably need to get a little more involved ... so that we're not repeating mistakes," she said.
Council OKs amended plan for apartments
The Mendota Heights City Council has approved an amended plan for a new two-building apartment complex off Hwy. 13, despite opposition from residents.
The buildings would sit on a 5.5-acre site formerly occupied by the Mendota Motel and Larson Garden Center, south of Acacia Boulevard. The altered plan would shrink one building to create more room between the two buildings, and replace part of the parking lot with more green space.
The developer granted the changes as a "peace offering" to Council Member Ultan Duggan, who requested them. Duggan is one of two council members opposing the project, said Tim Benetti, community development director, who called the original plans for the complex "very well designed, very well presented."
The council approved the plan on a 3-1 vote at its April 3 meeting. Duggan was not present for the vote.
A group of residents is suing the city over the project, claiming city officials broke several ordinances in approving it. They believe the project is too big, with limited parking, reduced setbacks and too much pavement.
A ruling on the lawsuit is expected by mid-May, Benetti said.
City opening downtown to sidewalk cafes
Carver has adopted an ordinance allowing for the creation of sidewalk cafes in an effort to drive more foot traffic downtown.
City officials hope that area restaurants will take advantage of the ordinance to draw customers to the Shops of Carver, a business district specializing in vintage goods, restored furniture and classic antiques.
"We want to capture some of that energy in the form of additional pedestrian traffic," said City Manager Brent Mareck.
The cafes can operate between April 1 and Oct. 31, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Smoking will be prohibited in cafe areas.
The city's master plan calls for a "more well-rounded downtown experience," and sidewalk cafes would complement recent efforts to widen public sidewalks.
So far, only Harvey's Bar and Grill, 220 Broadway St., has applied for a city permit to operate a sidewalk cafe.